For some of the kids, those who are beyond exhausted from the constant struggles and endless string of appointments to manage a severe acute or terminal illness, the will to carry on often seems out of reach. But then something changes. After the regional nonprofit Wishing Star Foundation steps in and offers to fulfill any wish a child can imagine, a spark inside ignites. This unexpected introduction of something positive gives them renewed hope.
"The distraction of their illness is on the back burner," says Stephanie Neumann, the foundation's development director. "They [now] have something to be excited about and to think about. It generates momentum toward recovery."
This phenomenon has been observed in many of the 3- to 21-year-old clients served by Wishing Star, which has been granting wishes to young people across the Inland Northwest since 1983.
To fund these life-changing moments for its clients, the foundation is hosting the 10th Annual Taste Spokane gala later, a landmark event with many new features in store for this year, according to Neumann. The culinary-focused event at Northern Quest hosts hors d'oeuvre-sized samplings from numerous regional restaurants, along with drinks from area wineries and breweries. There's also live music by local band Ticking Time Bomb, and a live auction emceed by Mark Peterson of KXLY-TV.
Last year's event brought in more than $37,500, which supported the fulfillment of six wishes. On average, each wish costs about $5,000.
In 2015, Wishing Star was able to grant 12 wishes, including one to 15-year-old Spokane resident Ryan, who wished to attend the massive gaming convention BlizzCon. After having his wish put on hold for a year due to the return of his cancer, which he's been in treatment for since 2013, Ryan finally got to go to BlizzCon this past November, Neumann says. Ryan is holding on to his dream to someday work for the company behind BlizzCon, Blizzard Entertainment, which publishes the popular video games World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Hearthstone.
CORRECTION: The original version of this story reported that Ryan was still waiting to hear he's cancer-free. However, we're happy to report that we've learned he has indeed been declared to be free of cancer.
10th Annual Taste Spokane • Fri, Feb. 26, from 6-10 pm • $60/general; $100/VIP • Northern Quest Resort & Casino • 100 N. Hayford Rd., Airway Heights • wishingstar.org • 744-3411